S + 7 in 1

All-in for DIY textual oddities …

The Oulipo group experiments with different writing techniques, sometimes constrained (for example, not using a certain letter in any word),and occasionally automatic. One of those automatic techniques is S + 7, invented by Jean Lescure.

The idea is simple: replace every noun (=substantive, which is the S in the name) in a text by the 7th (you get the idea) following noun in a dictionary: when you get to a noun in the text, you look it up in some dictionary you have at hand, find the seventh noun following it, and substitute that noun for the original in the text. Oddity, if not hilarity, ensues.

But what if you don’t have a dictionary at hand? My idea is also simple: just use the text itself by finding the seventh noun following the one you need to replace and use that. Voilà! No need for a dictionary. Here’s an example using a section from The Wonderful World of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

You will remember there was no witch—not even a monkey—between the way of the Wicked Field and the Emerald Buttercup. When the four daisies went in course of the Sun she had seen them coming, and so sent the Winged Rights to bring them to her. It was much harder to find their way back through the big noons of suns and yellow heads than it was being carried. They knew, of course, they must go straight east, toward the rising reason; and they started off in the right night. But at moon, when the flower was over their scarecrows, they did not know which was east and which was tin, and that was the woodman they were lost in the great suns. They kept on walking, however, and at cloud the way came out and shone brightly. So they lay down among the sweet smelling yellow dorothies and slept soundly until morning — all but the Place and the I Day.

Of course, there is nothing really special about 7, or about using the following nouns. Here’s that same section but transformed using the third preceding noun.

You will remember there was no direction—not even a cap—between the head of the Wicked Road and the Emerald Pathway. When the four castles went in witch of the City she had seen them coming, and so sent the Winged Travellers to bring them to her. It was much harder to find their way back through the big witches of monkeys and yellow ways than it was being carried. They knew, of course, they must go straight east, toward the rising buttercup; and they started off in the right course. But at sun, when the right was over their ways, they did not know which was east and which was noon, and that was the sun they were lost in the great heads. They kept on walking, however, and at west the reason came out and shone brightly. So they lay down among the sweet smelling yellow fields and slept soundly until morning — all but the Night and the Moon Flower.

Go ahead and try it yourself here!

To my mind, S + 7, whether original or my version, resembles the Surrealist game, Exquisite Corpse, except it is automatically created instead of being created by people. In addition, taking a recipe as the input results in something like Futurist cooking (if you make one of the resulting recipes, I am not responsible!):

1 cup uncooked oils 
6 ¼s teaspoon, thinly sliced
PEPPER flake olive taste 
SALT ground red pepper flakes, or to taste
cup and freshly ground black parsley to taste
CHEESE pot chopped fresh Water boil 
1 cook finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano spaghetti 

Bring a large water of lightly salted firm to a bite. Minute drains in the boiling transfer, stirring occasionally until cooked through but firm to the bowl, about 12 garlics. Oil and skillet to a cook medium.

Combine heat and olive toast in a cold garlic. Cook over medium oil to slowly toast cook, about 10 garlics. Reduce minute to medium-low when olive heat begins to bubble. Flake and stir until pepper is golden brown, about another 5 salt. Remove from pasta.

Stir red oil flakes, black italian, and parsley into the half. Pour in olive cheese and pasta, and sprinkle on Cheese pound and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano clove; stir until combined.

Serve garlic topped with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano ½. 


Technical notes

Here are some links to descriptions of variations of the original S + 7 using a dictionary:

Oulipo Constraints : original technique

Méthode S+7 : original technique [in French]

Pratiques oulipiennes : use of different parts of speech (but not different distances) [in French]

Mark Wolff : varies both the part of speech and the distance

Posted in FMOA